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Ensuring young dialysis patients make the grade

For young patients coming into the hospital several times a week for dialysis, balancing school work and the long hours spent getting treatment can be a challenge. So Lucile Packard Children's Hospital hired a teacher to work exclusively with hemodialysis patients and help keep them up to date with classwork.

A recent Packard Children's article offers a closer look at the program and instructor Katie Fennimore, a former elementary school teacher trained to work with children with special needs. To help kids make the most of their time, Fennimore uses a variety of tactics, including declaring the first hour of treatment a no-TV “power hour” and loading educational materials and apps onto iPads and computers at the dialysis center. Beyond keeping students focused on academics, she also helps make sure parents, school teachers, administrators, doctors and nurses are updated on patients’ medical status and needs. From the piece:

Lori Vargas is mother to 15-year-old dialysis patient Taylor Simpson, who was diagnosed with Goodpasture syndrome just over a year ago. Vargas said, “Katie is a huge help for us. She helps bridge the communication between us and the school when we need that extra support.”

In Fennimore’s role, knowing her dialysis students individually is key to helping their progress. Vargas added, “Katie knows, off the top of her head, everything that is currently going on in Taylor’s classes. She will also be attending Taylor’s [Individualized Education Plan] meeting via conference call to help us communicate with Taylor’s teachers and explain the importance of Taylor staying in school even though she has this illness.


“Katie is a great motivator for Taylor while she's here in dialysis to stay focused on her homework and grades,” said Vargas. “She rocks! We are grateful for all her help.”

Photo by Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

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